What Separates the Ten Commandments from the (seemingly) Ten Thousand Commandments?

by Joseph Franks

God leads his people into the wilderness and there he presents his Law. Moses communicates God’s will to God’s people, and it can be summarized by One Supreme Commandment: Men should love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

This One Supreme Commandment can then be split into Two Great Commandments: Men should love God by worshiping him properly. Additionally, they should love God by loving their neighbors suitably.

These Two Great Commandments can then be further subdivided and split into Ten Moral Commandments. The first four focus upon man’s worship of God. The second six deal with the love man owes his neighbor. These Ten Commandments are referred to as Law of God, the Testimony, and the Decalogue. Some of their characteristics are as follows:

  • These Ten Moral Commandments were practiced prior to Moses.
  • These Ten Moral Commandments were presented audibly by God to the people. (Unmediated; Ex. 20:19; Deut. 5:22)
  • These Ten Moral Commandments were written with the finger of God. (Ex. 31:18; Deut. 5:22)
  • These Ten Moral Commandments were engraved in stone. (Deut. 5:22)
  • These Ten Moral Commandments were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. (Deut. 10:5)
  • These Ten Moral Commandments will be practiced throughout all eternity.

However, these Ten Moral Commandments can be further understood and fleshed out. Men can better understand God’s will by sorting through the  Six Hundred and Forty Commandments. These are also called the Law of Moses, the Ordinances, the Book of the Covenant, or the Book of the Law. And in these Ordinances, one sees how a Theocratic Israelite, committed to the One Supreme Commandment, or the Two Great Commandments, or the Ten Moral Commandments should worship. Some of their characteristics are as follows:

  • These Ordinances were, in part, practiced prior to Moses.
  • These Ordinances were presented by God, through Moses, to the people.
  • These Ordinances were written with the pen of Moses. (Mediated)
  • These Ordinances were written on a scroll.
  • These Ordinances were placed inside a book.
  • These Ordinances were set aside with the finished work of Christ. (Col. 2:14)
  • These Ordinances will guide the wise worshiper and governmental authority in making decisions.

Therefore, as grace-based, predestined, saved, secured, and shepherded believers, how ought we to worship? We should worship by keeping the Ten Commandments without the Ten Thousand additions. The ceremonial and civil additions were good for a time, but have ceased to be the divine standard for holy living today. So worship well; holiday well; keep your covetous lusts in check while you honor authority, spouse, and neighbor. But forget the sacrifices, light a fire, eat some barbecue and shrimp, cut the sides of your beard, and enjoy the sabbath as did Adam and Eve. There is no need to be quite so tight as was Moses and his friends.

However, don’t skip so quickly through Exodus, Numbers and Leviticus. All of Scripture is useful in guiding the New Covenant believer. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Great principles for living life and making decisions can be found, even in the later writings of Moses.

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